How to Start Your Own Charter Fishing Business

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When planning to start your own charter fishing business, remember to follow the basics in starting one. You need to have a business plan and good marketing strategy. You need to consider several things before starting a charter fishing business like licenses, boat, security, gears and pricing.

Also remember to take into consideration the safety of your customers.

charter fishing business

Are you thinking about starting your own charter fishing business? Remember that becoming a small business owner can be exciting and can have rewards in the future. One must follow a well detailed business plan in order to become successful. In starting a business, you need to follow the laws and policies set up the government. You also need to have a good marketing strategy for it. When starting your own charter fishing business, catching a fish is one factor that you need to take into consideration. You also need to be a good captain of the charter boat. The truth is you need to learn more than just catching fish and being a good captain. This charter fishing business has become popular especially for those people living along the coast. There are some things that you need to remember in order to start your own charter fishing business.

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  • License as a captain – You need to apply for a license if you want to become a captain of your boat. If you have a license, they would allow you to take people in your boat and set sail.
  • Choosing a boat – The boat is an important element when starting a charter fishing business. It should be dependable and reliable at the same time. It would best if your boat is over 25 feet and got a good engine. Customers would definitely want a boat that would take time to bring them to what they love to do and that is to fish. You also need to consider having a bathroom for your customer to use. A cooler is good to have especially for your client’s who might want to bring food and drinks.
  • Good fishing gear and equipment – As a fishing boat owner, you need to have good equipment and licenses available in your boat. Your equipment should be maintained and cleaned. You don’t want your customers lose fish because of your equipment. You also know how to use them correctly and properly. Practice tying and rigging. Before taking in customers, make sure that everything is set and ready.
  • Pricing – Make sure that your services are priced within the range of your industry. Never sell short. The gas can be high. Also consider the maintenance and repairs that you need to adjust with. Have a profit margin for each of your trip. It is better if you do your research first. Inquire with other charter fishing businesses before you set up your own price. It is better to know the average cost for every fishing trip.
  • Create a website – One of the marketing techniques that you can do is to create your website that could show clients what services you offer. Hire someone to do a website design suitable for your business. It would be better to put latest news, reports, pictures that are related to fishing.
  • Traditional marketing – Go back to the basic by advertising in local newspaper and magazine. Partner with a fish store to maximize your promotional campaign.
  • Take safety precaution – It is important that you know the safety requirement when it comes to fishing. Always have life jacket, first aid kids and flares. The safety of your customer’s relies in your hands.

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62 Comments

  • 1. Angello Manfugas said on January 4, 2009
    I am thinking to start a company, and this page was really helpful to me, but i have one question, i will like to know if there is anything else other than the website information i might have to know about. if you respond back please be detailed so i don't miss out on any information. thank you, Angello Manfugas
  • 2. Justin Holland said on January 25, 2009
    I am thinking of starting my own business also. i love fishing very much and want to share that feeling with others. i am very knowledgeable on the subject but i was wondering what the right kind of boat would do for starting out, i wanted to start with inshore then make my way offshore a little later on. thanks for any advice
  • 3. Aliasger Arsiwala said on February 17, 2009
    Respected sir, I want to start my business in fishery. So what are the primary needs to start fishing business? And if in case i want to join your company what are the primary procedures? Please reply soon urgently on e-mail:rajabhai_cby@rediffmail.com. Regards Aliasger Arsiwala Khambhat Dist:Anand Mo:9825525095
  • 4. Chad Carter said on March 4, 2009
    Justin, this is for your answer for starting an inshore business yours gonna want at least at 25 ft boat don't worry about a bathroom for inshore and just try to keep everything neat.
  • 5. Brandon said on March 25, 2009
    I'm in the middle of starting my own inshore charter business. Do I need to register for an LLC to be legal or do I just need a captain's license and a boat? I don't know the logistics to opening my charter business.
  • 6. Edward Allen-King said on March 27, 2009
    hello i would like to start my own fishing charter but i do not know how to go about it can i have tips or any information on helping me reach my goal it will be so much help! thank u
  • 7. david said on April 18, 2009
    i'm am looking to start my own charter, however i also want to do a lot of special events such as take a kid fishing, salute to the troops, taking out the less fortunate, and disabled vets. i'm looking for help in funding to buy the proper boat and gear to accommodate for this and there are no grants available, any help in finding the fund would be great.
  • 8. Dave said on June 3, 2009
    Thinking of starting a business in the industry overseas. Can you recommend anywhere I can learn about the fish indigenous to the Mediterranean Sea and or Red Sea, how to fish for them etc. before I actually go on the water there? thanks, Dave K
  • 9. david said on June 7, 2009
    ummmm....HELP!!!! i'm looking for info on getting started and can't find anything about the License requirements and prices, I have all the gear and boat and ready to start.
  • 10. Matt Faulkenberry said on June 28, 2009
    My name is Matt and i wanna try and open my own fishing charter but i need help with info on what procedures to take so can somebody please help me with the info to get me started. Thank you, its really appreciated.
  • 11. Patrick Dempsey said on June 28, 2009
    I have been doing a lot of research on the commercial fishing subject. If anyone gets started out i can be your backhand for what ever season and in any location. salmon season just started so I can start ASAP. I already have general knowledge and am CPR, First aid, AED, and Oxygen certified. Email me with any responses. Pdemp33@gmail.com Thanks
  • 12. Greg said on September 14, 2009
    Cathy, i would recommend that you cook the hamburgers and hot dogs before you sell them and store the ice in a cooler so it doesn't melt. I would go to the store and buy these products, bring them onto the boat and then exchange them for money so that i could make money.
  • 13. Wilson said on October 17, 2009
    I'm also wanting to start my own fishing charters\ecotour \ water taxi{can all three be done?} I have the perfect boat it's a twelve passenger. what I'm stuck on is the business proposal. there are a few people in my area but being first nations I'm hoping to have an edge on the competition.
  • 14. Kelli said on December 9, 2009
    Westport, WA. I own a charter fishing business. I am looking for a skipper and vessel to join my fleet on the WA coast. Contact me!
  • 15. Nate said on December 20, 2009
    Looking to set up a sailboat charter in Lake Michigan. I have 2 matching 26ft boats and want to offer them as rentals or the option to have them captained by myself. Any Ideas on the legalities of licenses and insurance I would need if someone else was to take it out? And If I have 4 paying people or less does that change the license I need if any? Thanks!
  • 16. Dan'o said on January 18, 2010
    *As an important sidenote as I read over many of these questions & replies...I am in the industry both commercially and within the private sphere as a registered 100 ton Charter Captain. In my years of fishing & life I have come to realize that there are two main industries (businesses) that an individual has a very hard time simply starting overnight even if they possess great passion and business skill. Those two industries would be the Towing/Salvage industry & The charter Fishing industry. You may think that these are two randomly unrelated professions, however they are both EXTREMELY TERRITORIAL. Beginning a charter company isn't as simple as finding a 25ft. boat (ideally you want 37' minimum and a 42' maximum for inshore/offshore shared status)because there are important insurance breaking points if your boat is larger than a certain length and beam (width) and smaller than the next largest classification of gross ton and passenger compliance. You need to think about storage in the winter, and finding a dock that will allow you parking for your customers without charging you and arm and a leg for monthly/yearly slip rental. Going back to territory, many guys in the industry assist each other to an extent...we help each other stay on lines and school patterns because we grow close over the years and look out for each others income. With that said, a guy who shows up in new waters with a boat trying to run up in on the customer base isnt always welcome. i recommend working as a deckhand or mate for a few seasons at a minimum, Apprentice for your licensure as a Captain, and then move a few shores away from your mentor and begin your stride towards Charter ownership. I didn't mean to seem harsh but I wanted to put things into perspective because a lot of the failure I've seen over the years is due to some underlying factors that no one usually thinks about. -DWG
  • 17. marcus said on February 2, 2010
    DOES ANYBODY KNOW WHAT KIND OF LIABILITY INSURANCE IS NEEDED FOR A FISHING CHARTER SERVICE??
  • 18. Patrick said on February 7, 2010
    I was thinking of starting a "Fishing Buddy For Hire" business, not really a guide service. You can call, set up a date and time I will meet you and take you fishing, small fee, lots of fun.
  • 19. bernie said on March 2, 2010
    i want to start a charter business in hernando, fl. i really don't have any competition in this area the going rate is $250.00 for 6 hours. do i under cut to start, or do i keep the same price and depend on my knowledge?
  • 20. Kevin said on March 18, 2010
    Bernie,....if you start a charter business in Hernado, and only charge $250 or less for 6 hours; I'll be your MAIN CLIENT!!!! Give your e-mail address and phone number and RAKE IN THE BUCKS!!! K
  • 21. mix said on March 25, 2010
    Hey can someone tell me if I absolutely need a. Captains license to charter a small freshwater fishing boat? It would be a 1-3 person charter. Very small, on the hudson river, for smallmouth, largemouth, etc. Besides the needs for a small business, do I need a captains license? This country makes it so hard to make work for yourself if you have a record because of a stupid fight in high school. Thank god I got a job before everything or else I would really be screwed. Thank you to anyone who helps.
  • 22. robert park said on March 29, 2010
    i am looking to start a fishing charter service on lake erie can anyone email me on what i need to do to start, preferably from beginning to end. and what type insurance i would need and how much, and what does it usually cost. any help would be very much appreciated
  • 23. barry borcherding said on March 29, 2010
    hey my name is Barry. I am currently in the army when i get out in 3 years i wanna start my charter fishing business off the gulf coast of Texas. i plan on buying my boat cash. I've been looking @ a 35ft Hatteras or similar boat for offshore fishing Ive already looked into 6-pack license, dock fee's, fuel, drinks, water, sodas, bait, food, insurance, web design which my wife has a degree inn any type of advertising I've thought of. i also plan on living on the boat since it sleeps 6 people has a shower, bathroom, kitchen and couch. so my question is this if anyone can help me. If I'm paying cash for my boat should i get a center console and live in a apartment and work a part time job and try to run my business or should i go ahead and live on the 35ft boat i would buy and just pay for the boat dock fee for living on the boat and work a part time job while trying to get the business started. i have friends who own there own business's and have clients who have money and have already said they will pay me to take them out on my boat. please if someone would give me there opinion i would appreciate it thanks.
  • 24. Jon Ingram said on May 8, 2010
    I run two charter boats out of Orange Beach, AL. I think that anyone who is looking to start his/her own charter boat business should think long and hard about it. For me it is better to be a Captain and "run" SOMEONE ELSE'S charter boat. You get to run the boat as the Captain and you get paid of course, but you don't have all of the expenses that go along with owning your own boat. B.O.A.T.= "Bring On Another Thousand." Ownership can be VERY expensive year to year. Also, don't think that all you have to do is get your Captain's license, a boat, and business cards. In most established charter boat marinas just getting your foot in the door as a deckhand can be challenging. This business can be a really exclusive club and they don't just let anyone join. There is a lot of competition between boats at some of the larger marinas.
  • 25. Jon Ingram said on May 8, 2010
    IF you do decide that you want to live the lifestyle of a Charter Boat Operator you should follow these basic steps in order. Always remember, as a professional Captain you are expected to know the basic laws, how to safely operate a vessel in all conditions, "The rules of the road," and how to interpret "Aids to Navigation," day and night. Most people do not possess the knowledge to simply study and take the USCG exams in order to achieve his/her Captain's license. So, lesson #1 Don't try this on your own, enroll in an accredited class. It is much easier than going it alone.

    1. Enroll in an accredited Captain's School I went to Sea School in Bayou Labtre, AL but they have schools in other locations too.

    2. Work hard at learning what you need to know while in Captain's school. The tests, yes, plural, are not that easy.

    3. Once you pass your tests you then have to get your school transcripts sent to the USCG in order to get your license. You have to find the nearest USCG Examiners office near you. (use the internet). You will need all of your paperwork from your Captain's School, I.D., Birth Certificate etc.... It's a lot, but the folks that train you will provide you with the documents. Once you file all of your documents with the USCG, you sit back and wait for your license. It's the government, don't expect a speedy process.

    4. It goes without saying that if you currently use any type of intoxicating agent no matter what it is, legal or not, with or w/o a prescription, you will have a tough time getting your license. Every license request requires you to submit to a physical and a urinalysis drug screen. A doctor known as an M.R.O.(Medical Review Officer) has to conduct the physical and the drug screen. Again, find an "M.R.O." near you. You must pass the physical and of course the drug screen. Folks with a history of heart trouble should probably try another career...

    5. Now, if you managed to weave your way through all of the red-tape and have your license, it is time to get a TWIC Card! Yeap! there's more... You have to locate the nearest port or other location where you can sign up for a TWIC card(Transportation Workers Identification Credential). You have to go to the nearest location where you can sign-up, then wait for the examiner to set-up an appointment. When you get to your appointment you will be photographed, digitally fingerprinted and a criminal background check on you will ensue. If you come back clean with the background check they issue you a TWIC card. If they find cause NOT to issue you a TWIC card, you are now done. You can't be a Captain without a TWIC card in the U.S.

    6. Okay, you've made it. You are now a fully licensed Charter Boat Captain. You're probably going to be an O.U.P.V. licensed Captain unless you have a lot of sea-time on large vessel at sea. OUPV = Operator of an Uninspected Passenger Vessel. This is a "Six Pack" license. That means you can take up to 6 people on your boat plus two crew members, the Captain and the Deckhand. Violate this rule and you WILL lose your license.

    7. Now it's business time: You set-up a Charter Boat Service just like most other businesses. A.Put the vision you have for your business on paper. B. Refine that into an actual business plan that can be followed toward establishing your business. Study the industry as much as you can. Ask questions of others who work in the industry. Learn as much as you can, you will need the knowledge to compete.

    You can be a sole proprietor, an LLC, an S Corp. or even a C corp. if you want to go that big.

    The more important thing is to have solid liability insurance. Otherwise, you are a sitting duck for a lawsuit sometime in your career.

    8. Build a web site where customers can actually book trips. I built mine through www.networksolutions.com

    9. Market your Charter Boat Service as big as you can. You will be the new kid on the block and it is easy to be missed when you are surrounded by other charter boat Captains with bigger boats and better tackle than you have... You just roll with it.

    10. Find your niche in the local fleet that you are trying to become a part of... Never try to compete with the "Party Boats." These guys make more in a day than a lot of six pack boats make in a season. BUT, they are big and therefore use a lot of diesel and they can cost millions.

    11. Make sure you know how to fish if you are going to be a "Professional Charter Fishing Service." Sounds like common sense but when you get into the biz. you will see that there is a lot more to charter fishing than there is to private fishing. Your customers expect to catch fish. If you can't catch fish your business will die off.

    12. The above is basically how you get started in the charter boat business. Obviously there is more to be learned and discussed. The above is just a primer on the subject.
    Capt. Jon B. Ingram, jonbingram.com
  • 26. George Sumile said on June 6, 2010
    Hi, thanks a lot for the information i learned today about fishing, i lived near the sea i have my fishing boat. I wish i learn more about fishing using various kinds of Fishing net techniques. Best regards, George, Philippines
  • 27. Ray Sosa said on June 30, 2010
    Hi, i have a 27' 1993 proline open fisherman with twin yamaha's the boat is in great shape, is it an ideal boat to start an inshore/offshore business? if so what do i need to start, pls help very motivated thanks
  • 28. mike jhonson said on July 25, 2010
    If you want fish in the Gulf of Mexico in federal waters. You need a permit that you must buy from an. existing charter service. There is a moratorium on these permits. The price has come down but its still 5-8k last i checked
  • 29. C D said on September 29, 2010
    I am wondering: Should i document the boat i am going to use for offshore fishing (Charter Business) in my personal name, or have the name of the LLC i recently created on the documentation?
  • 30. paul fuller said on October 12, 2010
    Hello, I am looking to make the first steps into being a part time Charter fishing boat, I have the boat and local Knowledge and take friends out from time to time, Can you advise me on how to get registered and how to apply for my captains license along with what insurance and safety equipment etc.
  • 31. Maara Mataio said on December 21, 2010
    Hello from the Cook Islands, in the South Pacific. I am young 21 years and very knowledgeable and passionate about fishing wahoo, tuna and other ocean species of fish just outside the finging reef of my island. I would like to convert my fishings skill into a small business oriented manner in terms of having a small fishing charter and as well as combining it with other areas as fishing for the local market. I see huge potential for this business in catering for the tourist(fishing experience, fish for local restaurant) and local market (healthy food ). However, my problem is, I have no idea on writing up a business plan. Can you please help me in writing up my business plan.
  • 32. Manfred said on January 28, 2011
    I want to know how to start a fish shop could you please be so kind and avail me with a proper business plan to start such a venture.
  • 33. mike said on February 9, 2011
    Interested in part time inshore charter business. I would be fishing Mobile Bay area and would like to know what steps I would need to take to start a business. Mobile, Alabama U.S.A.
  • 34. Keshab Ram Mani said on May 22, 2011
    I sell air ticket & railway ticket. Where I connect this service I can sell ticket. Please detail address where contact?
  • 35. Rob Snedden said on June 29, 2011
    Investor, based in the UK but willing to travel. Recent sold business, and interested in starting up a charter fishing business with the help of another eager participant. Open to ideas on venue. Email me at bigbadbobned@gmail.com
  • 36. BC Halibut said on August 11, 2011
    If you need to ask about a business plan on how to start your own business, then you shouldnt be starting a business at all. IT ONLY TAKES 1 CALL TO GET ALL THESE ANSWERS!! Call up the fisheries AND ASK THEM! Is it that hard to do? If you want to start a business then spend a year on all the details, how much fuel costs, licenses, insurance, mechanics, dry dock, Equipment costs, bait, business license, tax numbers, ADVERTISING IN A "UNIQUE WAY" and a reputation. I always ask other charters about each other, then by their response I decided if they're mature or not (I ask them as a test). The biggest problem would be competition, fishing is a passion and once a new dog shows up in town, you tend to find sugar in your gas tank, and theres 10,000 suspects that would do it in a heart beat. Bottom line is if you havent already been in the fishing charter business for years, you're not getting in. Then the only thing you have left over is debt. Fishing in a recession is basically fishing to survive, so be careful.
  • 37. bruce said on August 12, 2011
    I'm thinking of buying a small cruise ship to take out in International waters for use as an overnight brothel and casino,maybe some gladiator fights.Any suggestions would help.
  • 38. James Cullen said on May 16, 2012
    I live in Orangeburg,SC it is 20 minutes from Santee,SC and one hour from Charleston,SC . I not sure as to which city I should open my fishing charter business. I am also not sure as to whether or not I should own the company outright or pay someone to captain the boat for me.
  • 39. Bradley dmello said on June 18, 2012
    i'm interested in working for charter fishing business. i'm too want to start the business. i'm staying in andheri(west)my mobile no 9773265491.
  • 40. Gaelale Jani said on January 21, 2013
    I have a fishing project in Botswana, my problem is fishing equipments like fishing nets because we only get them from Zambia and there are very expensive to buy.Please let me know where can i buy them cheap.
  • 41. Sampath Kumar said on February 4, 2013
    I live in Hubli, Karnataka, Inda. I am planning to start a charter for self or for lending on for a rent. Pl guide me into to technicalities of the charter, legal procedures and the expected cost to set up the business.
  • 42. adan maxmed akli said on February 13, 2013
    hi i live in borama south somalia i have fishing project but i dont have resource and i known this project i want to ask if their is any help, in the coast or any thing
  • 43. Gary Childers said on February 25, 2013
    Hi,I want to start a on shore fishing business. I would like to do it asap. What are the licensing fees, along with the insurance and equipment I will need to make this happen. Sincerely, Gary
  • 44. Marcus said on February 26, 2013
    I'm 18 living in NW Arkansas, I know, Arkansas. I've been on many fishing charters growing up and would love the opportunity to be a deckhand and eventually have my own boat. I'm looking to move to the Florida area in the next year or so to start gaining experience. I would like to end up fishing my own boat in a foreign country. How should i go about finding a deckhand position? Any suggestions welcome.
  • 45. sam said on March 7, 2013
    Hi I am sam, I'm looking to star a business on snoek selling, I need the supply. I don't do Boat or sea. And do I need a license to move fish like snoek to other province. Thank you
  • 46. Mostafa Aboutaleb said on March 17, 2013
    i am fully prepared to set up anyone who is a licensed captain and wants to start up and manage a charter fishing business in the gulf of mexico , you will be given boats and gear and will become a full partner in a large marine company that will overlook your repairs and bookings and books and will keep you running strong . my name is mo , i own the marine company Shark Attack , i am in the business of putting you in business. 352 4764382 mostafa_aboutaleb@yahoo.com lets get busy , getting busy ! Mo
  • 47. Richard said on March 18, 2013
    What are the actual monthly cost of the business, by this I mean, boat space harbor rental fee, insurance, monthly taxes, and if there are any additional fees required to maintained the business running.
  • 48. Robin Fithen said on April 6, 2013
    I live in ohio but i will go where the business needs to be florida california where ever
  • 49. Bently Johnson said on April 29, 2013
    Hi i am from the Turks @ Caicos n looking for a partner to go in to commercial fishing for Red Snapper must have a Boat n all off the equipment n i will do all off the pepper work to make it happen all so looking for a 35'to 50 ft catamaran for take out Tourist it a lot of money in it u can also reach me on 649-2417941
  • 50. Jennifer Smith said on April 30, 2013
    Hello I am from the Bahamas my son along with me would like to start a fishing business to fish in deep water, and to overnight, what size boat do you recommend that we look at for this project.
  • 51. Brokedown said on June 19, 2013
    Hello. I'm from Oklahoma. Got no boat but I have been fishing before. Thinking about moving to Cuba to start my own Off-Shore Fishing Charter Service. Could you please tell me what I need to do? My search engine is broke and I lack all skills necessary to do anything on my own. Please help!!! brokedowninOKidoke@dumaz.com
  • 52. NOLUBABALO FAITH SHWELENI said on August 17, 2013
    Hi, I'm from Port Alfred. i would like do open my own business. but i dont know how to start. can you please help me what can i do first.thank you
  • 53. Trezah said on August 19, 2013
    Hello! I'm from Tanga City in Tanzania country, I want to start fishing business but I do not have capital, can you assist me. thanks
  • 54. henry said on August 30, 2013
    hi am henry and have plenty of fresh tilapia and nile perch, can u be of help in terms of market?
  • 55. christopher russell said on November 18, 2013
    I really want to do this business but I have no capital and I also have no experience. Can some please allow to work with them so that I can learn all the techniques of this business. am from liberia, my email add. christopherrussell115@gmail.com
  • 56. Raj said on March 15, 2014
    Hello Guys, I am planning to start Fish Net manufacturing company in Tamil Nadu, India. Could some one please help me to give details about rules and regulation on getting license ..and other stuff. Thanks
  • 57. Blake Rutherford said on March 16, 2014
    I'm 17 years old yes very young but my cousin and i planned having our own charter fishing boat we live in kansas and he will be moving to florida next summer when i graduate we will be moving to Ft. Myers FLis there any good advice to help us
  • 58. Blake Rutherford said on March 16, 2014
    Also if anybody is interested in having us work for them in a charter boat we would be interested in anything email me if so thank you brutherford24@yahoo.com
  • 59. mphefo Phillip said on July 3, 2014
    Hey, I need to opening the filling station in Polokwane Ga-Dikgale. place own by me and the size is 6km. the filling station that is working is 37km to that place. our costumer are local citizen and ather costomeres are passing to modjadjiskoof.God bless you
  • 60. Jonathan Mathau said on April 22, 2015
    Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia 96943. I have the boats but am not sure of fishing gears that my customers would prefer as for competition almost to none in my area. Please help
  • 61. Gus said on May 25, 2015
    Hello my name is Gus and I'm interested in opening a inshore/offshore Charter business. I have been fishing since I was a kid, salt and fresh water and I know the signs to look for to catch them. I am doing some research on lic. and found the Coast Guard to be a help by the way if they catch you they will be making sure all your paper work is in order and also the fisheries can be a great help. I haven't started but getting the info. and YouTube can be very educational. Good luck and God speed.
  • 62. Victoria Grasland said on October 20, 2015
    I want to start a shark fishing charter but only from the beach. Do I need anything special for that? Like license, insurance, etc..
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